Political cartoons help understand Chinese culture: academic

June 4, 2018

Cultural understanding: political cartoons teach us a great deal about a society’s social and political unconscious

The deep cultural and political psyche of a nation can be revealed through its cartoons, according to Dr Yingchi Chu, who has received a National Library of Australia research grant to study the popular art form.

Dr Chu, a senior lecturer in media and communication and research fellow at Murdoch’s Asia Research Centre, is studying Chinese cartoons in print, online, and social media formats from the early 20th Century to present day.

Her research covers mainstream and grass roots cartoons in the satirical and humorous style, reflecting China’s views on a range of topics.  The research, she says, could assist western nations better understand contemporary China.

“First of all, interpreting cartoons is obviously fun,” Dr Chu said of her research. “Second, cartoons teach us a great deal of a society’s social and political unconscious, and third, cartoons are fascinating in terms of the way they combine artistic creativity and critical thinking.

“This is particularly relevant to western attempts at a better understanding of contemporary China."

Dr Chu said cartoons were a thought-provoking part of popular culture, and she expects her research to be finalised in 2020, along with a book, scheduled for publication in the same year.

She has researched Chinese visual culture before, having already written two books on cinema, and a few journal articles on Chinese television.

Hong Kong Cinema: Coloniser, Motherland and Self, published in 2003, and Chinese Documentaries: From Dogma to Polyphony, published in 2007, were so popular they were reprinted in 2009.

“My research project aims to fill a glaring research gap – a study of Chinese cartoons as visual discourse,” Dr Chu said.

— With Rachel Ingram

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Media contact: Connie Clarke
Tel: (08) 9360 2734  |  Mobile: 0424 287 361  |  Email: connie.clarke@murdoch.edu.au
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